May 9, 2012

Top 10 Parenting Mistakes

Posted in Parenting tagged , at 8:18 am by Andrew

Three facts: 1) America loves lists. 2) There are millions of parents. 3) Parents make a slew of mistakes. So it’s only natural for DwyerTime to publish a list of the Top 10 Parenting Mistakes. Regular readers know this is a service-oriented web site, so I’m happy to help parents get back on track.

As you read this Top 10 list, you’ll notice an obvious trend: Most parenting mistakes stem from laziness. Parents generally know the right option in any given situation, but they’re just too weak to choose it. Why? Because parents use the difficulty of parenting as an excuse not to do the right thing. But quit making excuses, and start parenting!

So here are the Top 10 Parenting Mistakes. If you only make 8 of them, you’re way above average.

1. Talking baby talk.

When your toddler says “waw-waw,” and then you say “Here’s your waw-waw,” you know what your kid thinks? “My parent’s a moron.” Don’t you get it? A kid’s mind says “water” but his mouth can only say “waw-waw.” Quit modeling stupidity to your kid and speak like an adult.

2. Rushing in to pick up your toddler when she falls.

If you don’t want your kid to fall…don’t let her walk! Otherwise, let the kid deal with some struggles. Frantically picking up the kid as if she fell onto a bed of nails only teaches her that she can’t handle anything…ever.

3. Letting them watch TV.

Whether it’s a 3-year-old watching two hours of TV every day, a 10-year-old watching sitcoms seeped in sexual references, or a 15-year-old watching R-rated movies, it’s bad bad bad. Wake up and take responsibility, people! Are you really so ignorant that you don’t realize the negative effect on your kids? The material is inappropriate for children, but you’re just too laaaaazzzzzyyy to step up and take control. Shame on you.

4. Losing control of technology.

Again, there are too many examples to name, but here’s a sampling: 9-year-olds with unlimited texting, 12-year-olds with Facebook accounts, and ANY AGE KID with Internet access or a TV in their room. Seriously? Face it, you’re an absentee parent. Quit catering to your kid’s whims and say “no” more often. And don’t tell me “kids are tech-savvy these days.” Parents are failing their kids by abandoning them in an over-sexed, vitriolic media world…and there’s nothing virtual about the danger.

5. Failing to enforce bed times.

I don’t care if your kid is 2, 10 or 16…they need sleep…more than they’re getting…and you’re flat-out lazy or ignorant to think otherwise. Decades of scientific research (not to mention common sense) confirm the hazards of lack of sleep. From surliness to reduced capacity for learning, you’re doing your kid a disservice. So why do you do it? Because it’s easier on your schedule to let them stay up, and you’re too weak to enforce a bed time.

6. Holding your kid back in school.

Parents who wait until their kid is 6 to start Kindergarten should be ashamed of themselves. They’ll claim the kid is “emotionally immature” or “socially awkward” or “he’s just not ready academically.” 95% of the time, the real answer is this: “My kid’s fine, but I’m weak.” As mentioned in #5, decades of research prove a child’s brain is ready for kindergarten-level academia at age 5. You hold your kid back out of fear. You’re afraid he’ll struggle. And it’s just so darn easy to ensure “success” for your kid by holding him back. But quit kidding yourself – that’s not good parenting, it’s cheating. Then again, maybe your idea of “success” is an 8-year-old completing homework designed for a 7-year-old, or a 12-year-old running back blasting through a defensive line of 11-year-olds. After all, as the saying goes, “it’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.”

7. Ignoring the caffeine facts.

Sure, let your 7-year-old drink caffeinated soda. Let your teenager drink Starbucks…because you’re a cool parent, and you and your kid are coffee-drinking buds. That’s so fun…and ignorant. You can bury your head in the sand, but facts are facts: adolescent brains don’t process caffeine well. But then again, the scientific research probably doesn’t apply to your kid…because he’s just so special.

8. Succumbing to the Sports Industrial Complex.

Youth sports have run amok. That’s not hyperbole, urban myth, or a quaint complaint from a throwback parent. It’s just a fact. Youth sports start at a very young age and accelerate rapidly until they command the majority of your time. Here’s a typical situation: A group of 1st-graders play a traditional soccer season, consisting of spring and fall. Then the coach or a parent suggests “we keep the team together” and play an indoor winter league. That’s how the treadmill starts, and it’s nearly impossible to disembark. Gone are the days of “football season” and “baseball season.” Instead, every sport involves a 9- to 12-month commitment. Any off time is filled with camps, clinics and endless practicing. We tell our kids to resist peer pressure, yet we parents follow along shamelessly as youth sports devour family time, dinner time, down time, and play time. There are very few phenoms in this world, but there’s no shortage of parents who are too weak to admit their kid is not one of them.

9. Dismissing parenting guilt.

Our society has become fond of the concept of “no regrets”…or saying “I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” You know what that is? Self-indulgent idiocy. Same goes for parenting. Parents are told not to blame ourselves or feel guilty. Poppycock! If you can’t shoulder a little guilt, get out of the parenting business. Parenting is hard, and we all make mistakes, but what happened to “learning from our mistakes”? Hold yourself to a high standard, admit your failures and do better next time. You let your kid stay up too late, you failed to enforce the rules, and you ignored what you know is right. Own it, regret it, improve it!

10. Not enough hugs!

Let’s end on a positive note, because this is the easiest mistake to fix. We need to hug our kids more. Sure, we hug our 3-year-old, but I’m thinking about the teenagers. Dads, hug your 16-year-old son…every day. Moms, don’t ever think your son is too old for a hug. You may be uncomfortable with it, you may think your son doesn’t like it, but you both need it. And of course, daughters of every age need hugs…especially from Dad…that last a minimum of 10 seconds, preferably 20. Granted, I don’t have research on this one, but are you really going to argue with me about hugs? Despite our best efforts and everything we do right, we also fail our kids routinely (thus this column.). So think of a hug as confession from someone seeking absolution. We’re all dopes – parents and kids alike – but a hug at the end of the day says “I love you and you’re special, and any troubles between us…they’re nothing more than a few clouds on a beautiful day.”

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December 10, 2008

Politics of Parenting – Public Sunscreen Now!

Posted in Father Time tagged , , , at 9:43 pm by Andrew

The extensive media coverage of the upcoming elections got me thinking – why aren’t parents of young children a powerful voting block? We constitute a huge number of voters, yet our interests never take center stage. Other groups with sometimes far fewer numbers have great success pushing their interests into the mainstream (think gun control, gay marriage, immigration, elderly, etc.)

 

It’s time we exert the power of our numbers and demand attention from lawmakers. Note, I’m not suggesting we launch our own political party, and I’m certainly not volunteering to run for office. I have kids, after all, so I’m far too busy for more nonsense. But if we have learned anything from our children, it’s the power of whining. If we whine to the media about our problems, and start threatening with our votes, our political parents may give us that candy bar.

 

Our first priority should be making the tax code even more “parent friendly.” Granted, we have the expanded child credit, but now’s not the time to act appreciative. Here’s what we can do to make our children even better tax shelters:

 

Healthcare: Babysitter fees must qualify as a healthcare expense, because a night out is essential to parents’ mental health. And according to trickle-down economics, this change would benefit all of society – it would keep young people off the streets and provide them a valuable source of income. Plus, it would be a massive boost to the economy, as parents sprint to local restaurants and pubs.

 

Also in healthcare, given the ubiquity of orthodontic expenses yet the absence of orthodontic insurance, these costs should be elevated from a tax deduction to tax credit. Or, when you take out a loan to pay for the three-year COSMIX project in Junior’s mouth, the interest on that loan should be deductible.

 

Professional Fees: If I plunk down $25 to attend the local luncheon for Wildly Gifted Parenting Columnists, I can deduct that cost as a professional fee. Parents should do the same! My wife occasionally hits a “Moms Night Out” with her Moms Club, and I’ve been known to meet a few friends after dark for a “Dads Night Out.” These are clearly “professional meetings” for parents. As such, they should qualify as professional fees and be deductible.

 

Child Credit: As you know, the IRS offers every taxpayer a “standard deduction” on their taxes. We have the option of itemizing our deductions and thus exceeding the standard level. The same should be true for the child credit. Rather than simply taking the $1,000 per child credit, we should have the option of “itemizing” our child expenses and maximizing its value.

 

Applicable expenses would include sports team fees, school supplies, summer camps, karate and piano lessens, musical instruments, not to mention all the money we drop on school bake sales, magazine subscriptions and gift wrap. Add up all those expenses, and the kids will outrun mortgage interest as your top deduction!

 

Now, if any of you are balanced-budget hawks, and you’re wondering how we can afford these tax cuts…you’re not allowed to join our new group. This is politics. It’s not about solving problems…it’s about looking out for ourselves. And I don’t want to hear anything about “this is a bad example for our children.” Again, this is politics – we do this behind closed doors, not in front of our children, for goodness sake.

 

Our attention won’t be limited to the tax code. There are many changes in general society we should champion:

 

No candy: We demand federally mandated candy-free checkouts in every store. Again, all of society benefits from a reduction in public tantrums.

 

No Sun/No Germs: Just as we have public drinking fountains and trash cans, we need public sunscreen and hand-sanitizer dispensers. Parents simply cannot be expected to bring sunscreen everywhere. Municipalities should post sunscreen dispensers at every public park and pool! As for germs, look at it this way: Society likes to think kids are so dirty. That’s not true. The world is dirty…and our children merely attract the dirt. So the world should clean up after itself, and government should post hand sanitizer dispensers next to the sunscreen.

 

No Break/No Buy. Government should ban all “you break it—you buy it” decrees in stores. Such edicts constitute rampant discrimination against children, and it’s a blatant money grab by owners of dreaded country craft stores. That glass trinket of a cat and dog in a hammock has been sitting on the store shelf since 1982. My son did you a favor by breaking it. I’m not paying $17.95. It’s time we crack down on these predatory retailers!

The time is now, parents. In the next election, I want to hear candidates arguing over who takes credit for the first-ever Parents Day national holiday — when schools are open but all parents get the day off from work.

White Lies to Whoppers

Posted in Father Time tagged , , , at 9:31 pm by Andrew

I was speaking with a parent recently about a minor tussle involving our children. Someone said something to somebody, names were called, assorted crying and “I didn’t do it’s.” As this mother recounted her understanding of events, she summed it up as follows: “That’s how my son explained it…and he never lies.”

 

Yeah. I held my tongue. But I should have comforted her with these words: “Don’t feel bad. He’ll learn how to lie soon.”

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting lying is acceptable…but it is inevitable. It has a near-constant presence in our lives as parents. And I’m not referring to the untruths we parents throw at our children. (Just think of the creative responses you’ve offered up in the face of the dreaded “Mom, what are you eating?” Seriously, how much longer can you suppress your chocolate consumption by claiming they’re crackers? Eventually, won’t your child wise up and want one of those caramel-chocolate-nut crackers?)

 

Make no mistake, lying plays a role in the development of our children. In fact, as much as height-marks on a doorway measure physical growth, your child’s agility with diverted reality marks her mental growth. Seriously, your child progresses from blind honesty…to clumsy white lies…to absurd whoppers…to wily, impenetrable deceit. Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

 

Children and parents in the blind honesty stage are still in “the womb.” This is a period of blissful ignorance, during which your child has yet to even see lying as an option, and the parent confuses this innocence for purity. Parents in the womb equate lying with immorality and misbehavior. Hah!

 

This ignorance afflicts first-borns and their parents longest of all – perhaps up to five years. Subsequent children, however, catch up to speed much faster. In fact, it’s common for younger siblings to start lying shortly after they begin talking. Fortunately, by this point their parents have come to understand truth-bending for what it is – part of growing up.

 

If you’re one of those parents watching in horror as your precious little one increasingly lies through her teeth (if she has any yet), relax. Look at the lies as another cute aspect of childhood. When you ask your two-year-old if he ate the tops off the dozen cupcakes…and you think he said “no” but it was hard to tell because the dried frosting had glued his mouth shut…you should just chuckle. Laugh at yourself for asking such a ridiculous question.

 

That’s the white lie phase I referred to. Next comes the whopper stage. Whopper children are over their skis – they’ve become far too comfortable with lying, but their bold willingness to lie has outrun their ability to craft realistic mistruths. Examples include: “Grandma drank the French vanilla coffee creamer” and “Daddy spilled the chocolate sauce on your pillow.” (Though that last one is plausible).

 

As these whoppers continue to crash and burn, kids learn that less is more. This begins their Nixonian journey in the wily craft of plausible deniability. It can take several forms: From the most basic, albeit dramatic, disavowal (tears, panting, “I didn’t do it!”) to calm, reasonable explanations.

 

These undetectable lies are maddening for parents because we’re nearly defenseless. As Yogi Berra might say, if they don’t want to tell the truth, we can’t stop them. But at our house, we counter with equal skill – we call for a pow-wow. The three children (3, 6 and 9) must huddle and converse until the group squeezes out an admission. Classic peer pressure. Considering we have children in three separate stages – white lies, whoppers and wily deceit – pow-wows can turn ugly.

 

The 3-year-old thinks the whole process is a hoot, especially when she’s the guilty party. The 6-year-old gets tripped up like a poor sap under a police light. The 9-year-old weaves any number of tales to convince even an innocent sibling of his or her guilt. Conversely, if the eldest determines the consequence couldn’t possibly be worse than this ridiculous pow-wow, he’ll just sacrifice himself and offer up a bogus admission. The process may be inefficient, but it’s mostly effective.

 

The beauty of lying at this age group – and talk to any parent of a teenager and they’ll verify the luscious, romantic beauty of these elementary lies – is that it’s child’s play. The cover-up is worse than the misdeed. But come the teenage years, the stakes are raised. Then there’s plenty to lie about. And the truth has nothing to do with cupcakes and chocolate syrup. So enjoy those whoppers while you can!